Tesla, Other High-End Cars Slammed In Consumer Reports

Drivers are displeased with new car technologies such as confounding infotainment systems, according to the annual reliability study released by Consumer Reports on Thursday.

The problems are so widespread, buyers are urged to stay away from new car tech until things improve.

“These new technologies can add features and improve fuel efficiency, but are more prone to have issues. More often than not, our data suggests it's prudent for consumers to wait for the technology to mature,” said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, an independent non-profit organization that has tested products for 80 years.

This year, drivers complained of “growing pains” in new car models throughout the industry.

The survey “revealed that all-new or updated models are now more likely than older ones to have a wonky engine, a jerky transmission, or high-tech features that fail outright.”

Feedback, overall, includes new technology transmissions breaking down or shifting badly. Drivers of first-year models had twice as many complaints about in-car electronics.

“These new technologies can add features and improve fuel efficiency, but are more are prone to have issues. More often than not, our data suggests it's prudent for consumers to wait for the technology to mature,” Fisher said.

Data indicates that automakers tend to fix glitches quickly, from one model year to the next.

The 2016 Hyundai Tucson SUV scored poorly with owners due to transmission issues, but complaints about the 2017 Tucson transmission dropped by more than half. And the in-car electronics of the 2017 Honda Civic are so improved the complaint rate was a third of what was reported for the 2016 version.

While the Tesla Model S earned an “above average” reliability for the first time, Consumer Reports is predicting the upcoming Tesla Model 3 will have only an “average” reliability score.

The forecast by Consumer Reports, which makes predictions on every new and redesigned model, is based on the manufacturer's history and data from vehicles that share major components.

“Electric vehicles are inherently less complicated than gasoline or hybrid alternatives,” Fisher said.

“The Model 3 is the least complicated Tesla yet, and should benefit from what Tesla has learned from Model S.”

When it comes to the best electric cars, the affordable Chevrolet Bolt tied the luxury Tesla Model S with “above average” customer satisfaction.

Toyota is the top brand, while its luxury brand Lexus came in second, followed by Kia, Audi and BMW.

Meanwhile, Cadillac, GMC, Ram, Dodge and Volvo got the poorest scores.

Consumer Reports' auto testing chief Jake Fisher says Toyota's strategy of adding new technology gradually — instead of all at once — helps make its vehicles more reliable. Toyota's new Camry sedan, for example, has an eight-speed transmission that was first tested on the Highlander SUV.

Chrysler was the biggest climber in the rankings, thanks to consumers' reviews of its new Pacifica minivan.

Consumer Reports predicts reliability of 2018 vehicles based on a survey of its subscribers, who owned or leased 640,000 vehicles from the 2000-2017 model years. 

For more information on the survey, or to get the latest ratings and scores for more than 300 models, visit www.ConsumerReports.org or see the December 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

 

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